Monday, April 30, 2012

Another Crazyass Christian Cult that Abuses Children

WACO, Texas - Homestead Heritage, just outside of Waco, has been revered as a model of Christian values. But is it a Utopian commune, or as some suggest, a extreme group of believers putting children at risk?

Videos posted on the Homestead Heritage web site present to the public the wholesome image, bolstering its perception as a beloved staple of the community for two decades. The estimated 1,000 members, crafting a pristine portrait of communal bliss.

But many who have left the church and its 500-acre, gated compound, paint a much different picture. One of a secretive and tightly-controlled religious environment...

According to Homestead’s membership contract, the aspiring members agree "to never bring before the public outside our church... any accusations or wrongdoing or any charge, lawsuit or court action." Agreeing "that all disputes be settled within the confines of the church."... and in return... "the church agrees to never expose a member's shortcomings and sins to any outside it's covenant."

The greatest sins, some former members say, are committed against children and teens. From emotional to physical, even sexual abuse.

News 8 has learned that in the past seven years, five individuals, either members of, or with close ties to Homestead, have been convicted of sexually abusing a child within the Homestead community...

Becky Crow, a former pastor's wife who left the church ten years ago, tells News 8 the abuse was common.

“Many heartbreaking stories of broken lives have been shared with me,” Crow said. “Some have not only been raped, they have been sold for other's sexual perversion by the ones who should have protected them."

Attorney Greg Love has represented abuse victims across the country, and said the stories of abuse at Homestead fit a pattern.

“When you get these closed communities and part of the fabric of that community is, information stays on the inside, behavior stays on the inside, how we do things stays on the inside,” Love said. “Even if those behaviors are injurious to a child, and you are discouraged from bringing in the outside, you really find children at risk."

Death Threats from a "Christian"

Well, I assume it's a Christian:

Apparently the commandment about not killing doesn't apply to atheists in this demented worldview.

Sick. Sick. Sick.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Anatomy of Pseudoscience Bunk

A Facebook friend posted this link, which infuriated me so much I decided it was worth a blog post.  Right off the bat it smelled like blatant irresponsible pseudoscience to me, but as I read more of it (despite myself) I realized it is just so classic that it deserves to be taken apart piece by piece and the author, Gary Kohls, hung out to dry for all his googly fans to find.

This guy is or was a general practitioner who decided to specialize in mental illness without bothering to do all the bothersome training that the stupid "experts" do.  You know, three years post-medical school, training afterward, and for many of them studying for that "board certification" that we stupid people think means they know what they're talking about.   No.... this guy made up his own type of therapy which of course works just fine because he encounters his "patients" (i.e. suckers) in general practice rather than psych wards and emergency rooms.  So right there we have:

First, the title: How Psychiatric Drugs Made America Mad

This is classic doublespeak:  the thing that hundreds or thousands of people have used valid scientific methodology to develop is not only ineffective, it's detrimental.  You'd think all those brilliant people would have seen that they were harming patients instead of helping them.

In case you aren't suitably alarmed by the hyperbolic title, the subtitle gives you a punch in the gut:  Many casually prescribed drugs are fully capable of disabling – often permanently – bodies, brains and spirits.

Dateline:  April 22, 2012
This is the date that the article is published to this site, but it's not the date most of it was written earlier.  It doesn't really matter, as the "science" of this seems stuck in the 1950s, or perhaps 1960s since the audience wouldn't buy any of this without first having seen Cuckoo's Nest.

Now let's scare you half to death:
Since the introduction of major tranquilizers like Thorazine and Haldol, “minor” tranquilizers like Miltown, Librium and Valium and the dozens of so-called “antidepressants” like Prozac, Zoloft and Paxil, tens of millions of unsuspecting Americans have become mired deeply, to the point of permanent disability, in the American mental “health” system.
Many of these innocents have actually been made “crazy” and often disabled by the use of – or the withdrawal from – these commonly prescribed, brain-altering and, for many, brain-damaging psychiatric drugs that have been, for many decades, cavalierly handed out like candy – often in untested and therefore unapproved combinations of two or more.
Remember Cuckoo's Nest?  Doesn't matter if you do, really because this article will scare the shit out of you.  Your doctor is just waiting for his chance to suck you into an evil "system" and knock your brains out of your head with meds.  These "innocents" have done nothing wrong, and neither have you.  After all, the mental health "system" is a form of punishment, not a system dedicated to making sick people well.  None of the people who are receiving multiple drugs could be drug addicts gaming the system, oh no no no.  Forget Anna Nicole and Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston, and anyway people who aren't famous can't become addicted to prescription drugs.

Who would do such a thing to "innocents"?  Perhaps your kindly doctor is a victim, too.  He's been seduced by BigPharma & the FDA

Trusting and unaware patients have been treated with potentially dangerous drugs by equally unaware but well-intentioned physicians who have been likewise trusting of the slick and obscenely profitable psychopharmaceutical drug companies aka, BigPharma, not to mention the Food and Drug Administration, an agency that is all-too-often in bed with the drug industry that they are supposed to be monitoring and regulating. The foxes of BigPharma have a close ally inside the henhouse.
Ding ding ding ding!  We have a
  • Conspiracy Theory, de rigeur for bunk "science" because first before they can sell you on their "truth" they have to shake your trust in people who actually know what they're doing.

And here comes:

That is the conclusion of two books by a courageous investigative journalist and health science writer named Robert Whitaker. His first book, entitled Mad in America: Bad Science, Bad Medicine and the Enduring Mistreatment of the Mentally Ill, noted that there has been a 600 percent increase (since Thorazine was introduced in the U.S. in the mid-1950s) in the total and permanent disabilities of millions of psychiatric drug-takers.


That's right, don't just take my say-so, little ole' crackpot practitioner.  There are professional crackpots who are selling books claiming that things have gotten worse since we started locking up crazy people in "asylums" and throwing away the key.  Now I think this might be equivocation or perhapst it's straight-up bullshit, but how can there be an increase in disabilities of drug-takers from the beginning of drug-taking, when there were zero permanent disabilities due to drugs because....  read this part slowly:  600% of zero is zero!

The book's author is now portrayed the heroic John the Baptist character that every good pseudoscience needs:

This uniquely First World mental health epidemic has resulted in the taxpayer-supported, life-long disabilities of large numbers of psychiatric patients who are now unable to be happy, productive, taxpaying members of society.


 Whitaker has done a powerful service to humanity, albeit an unwelcome one for various healthcare-related industries, by presenting previously hidden, but very convincing evidence from the scientific literature to support his thesis: that it is the drugs and not the so-called “mental illnesses” that are causing the epidemic of “mental illness” disability.

Whattaguy!  He's taking on the case of "large numbers" (doesn't have exact numbers, conveniently) of people who can't be happy, despite supposedly being quite happy, productive and tax-paying citizens before taking thorazine or whatever.    First, millions of people have been helped by medications.  I am one and I know many others personally including my own mother.  My mother and I are relatively happy, productive and I pay taxes.  My mother paid taxes before she retired from her job.  If not for medications, my mom would not have been a productive member of society.  She was literally a blithering idiot, incapable of carrying on a conversation and an unmitigated complete mess.  My disease is depression, and unlike mom I have never been hospitalized, but I've been helped for sure by the psychiatric profession.

  • So... we have the biased sample again.  If there really is a problem they should be able to present percentages and hard numbers, comparing institutionalized people in 1950 vs. 2000.  I can provide contradictory evidence from my even more limited sample, so how trustworthy can this be?
"Taxpayer-suppored lifelong disabilities" didn't come along until the Reagan administration in the 1980s, so there's no possible way to make a comparison of the current era and the "good ole days" before medication, or even the 1950s-1970s.  With no SSI stats before SSI was invented, the statement is meaningless.  Referencing taxes does give them the air of being unbiased, as liberals tend to worry about sick people and conservatives worry about taxes.


Next we characterize the good guys as "open-minded" and essentialize the "problem:"

Many open-minded physicians and many aware psychiatric patients are now motivated to be wary of any and all synthetic chemicals that can cross the blood/brain barrier because all of them are capable of altering the brain in ways totally unknown to medical science, especially with long-term medication use

Why be wary of chemicals that have been tested and described in peer-review literature?  And this "long-term medication use" has to be weighed as a cost-benefit analysis.  Bi-polar disease usually results in suicide or incarceration without medication, and the side-effects are minimal.  Even if someone has some side-effect in their 70s, aren't the 50 years of living a relatively normal life before that worth that risk?  A 20-year-old taking his first dose this year would benefit from an additional 50 years of research by his 70s anyway so today's 70-year-olds aren't any window to his future.  What these "open-minded" physicians are open to is pseudo-science.  Yes, some of them are gullible too.

The circumstantial ad hominem raises its ugly head:

Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness

In Whitaker’s second book, Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America, the author provides overwhelming proof regarding this sobering assertion.

He documents the history of the powerful forces behind the relatively new field of psychopharmacology and its major shapers, promoters and beneficiaries, namely BigPharma and those groups and individuals who benefit financially

Rocket science is also a relatively new field, and it does have its share-holders, admittedly, but we did go to the Moon (or did we?).  Sure, there's potential for big industry to abuse its power, but that isn't proof that it's happened.  The author (according to our author) documents the business end, but apparently isn't interested in actual data about patients.  That's a pity.

Next there's an issue that is valid:  off-label use for patients whose brain has not yet developed.  I will grant this, but what does that have to do with whether medications given to adults are safe and effective?  It's passed on briefly without any statistics or neurobiological grounding.  Just thrown out there.

The next authority figure is brought out:

More evidence to support Whitaker’s well-documented claims are laid out in two other important new books written by practicing psychiatrist and scholar Grace E. Jackson, MD. Jackson has done yeoman’s work in researching and documenting, from the voluminous basic neuroscience literature (which is often ignored by mental health clinicians), the unintended and often disastrous consequences of the chronic ingestion of any of the major classes of psychiatric drugs.

Jackson’s most powerful book, in my opinion, is her second one, Drug-Induced Dementia: A Perfect Crime, which proves that any of the five classes of psychotropic drugs that are commonly used to alter the brains of psychiatric patients (antidepressants, antipsychotics, psychostimulants, tranquilizers and anti-seizure/”mood-stabilizer” drugs) have shown microscopic, macroscopic, radiologic, biochemical, immunologic and clinical evidence of brain shrinkage and other signs of brain damage, especially when used long-term.

Long-term use can result in clinically diagnosable, probably irreversible dementia, premature death and a variety of other related brain disorders that can mimic mental illnesses “of unknown cause.”

Dr. Jackson’s first book, Rethinking Psychiatric Drugs: A Guide for Informed Consent, was an equally sobering warning about the many hidden dangers of psychiatric drugs, dangers that are commonly not mentioned to patients when they get their first prescriptions.

Okay, so now our esteemed author has cited four books by two alarmist authors.  That first book is cited without any specific information backing it up, just a string of Latin-Greek words to make it seem authoritative.  The one I find funny is : "clinical evidence of brain shrinkage and other signs of brain damage, especially when used long-term"   What?  How could I snigger at that?  Well, you have to know that old people's brains shrink because they're OLD!  You could look at a "long-term" patient on holistic woo drugs and find those brains had shrunk too, assuming the marks who took the snake oil 1) lived long enough to get an old brain and 2) didn't have a shrunken brain to begin with!

The second "book" seems like it could be subtitled "read the inserts that come with your medication." ... and then when the rare possible side effects scare the shit out of you, take this totally unstudied elixir that has no documented side effects because there have never been any actual studies!

I'm not going to copy the rest.  You get the picture.  I'll summarize though so you don't have to:

Three paragraphs about Thorazine ... with an actual mention of Cuckoo's Nest.  The final statement reverts to the genetic fallacy, saying that Thorazine was originally developed as a dye.   uhhhh (if true)  so what?

By the way, Thorazine and 1950s psychiatry in general are targets of Scientology.  L. Ron Hubbard apparently didn't enjoy his stay in the Cuckoo's Nest so he made it his mission to attack psychiatry after he invented his religion.

Next, a few swipes at Depakote, which I'd never heard of, winding up with a case of a non-epileptic having a seizure after coming off of this epilepsy drug.  I think we can all agree that medications (including some woo forumulations) can have side-effects, and anything put into the brain can have withdrawal symptoms.  Withdrawal may indicate physical dependency technically, but it takes more than that to make something "addictive."  If you've ever known an addict you know they want an immediate high.  They don't get addicted simply by having something in their system that doesn't feel good on the way out.  They get addicted because they like the feeling they get going in.  Depakote would be all over the streets if it delivered a high.

The reason these things are being overprescribed is that people have been brainwashed by TV commercials.  It's a good thing you can't be brainwashed by pseudo-scientific nonsense splattered all over the interwebs!  People might think "safe and effective" is the same as "proven."  *whew*  Otherwise passages like the following might actually convince people:

After reading and studying all these inconvenient truths, mental health practitioners must consider the medicolegal implications for them, especially if the information is ignored by practitioners who are often tempted to dismiss out of hand new, clinically-important information that challenges or disproves their old belief systems.


 Those who are hearing about new data for the first time need to pass the word on to others, especially their healthcare practitioners. This is important because the opinion leaders in the highly influential psychiatric and medical industries have often been bribed or marketed into submission, without considering all the facts that might some day reveal that they are guilty of malpractice

From there the article devolves into more and more psychotic ramblings about conspiracies, "normals" being told they are "mentally ill for life" and that psychiatric drugs are the major cause (or one of) dementia.  ...and then we come full-circle to a reference to the 1950s:

Long-term, high dosage or combination psychotropic drug usage could be regarded as a chemically traumatic brain injury (cTBI) or, as “antipsychotic” drugs were known in the 1950s and 1960s, a “chemical lobotomy.”
TBI or chemical lobotomy can be a useful way to conceptualize this serious issue of drug-induced toxicity, because such neurologically brain-altered patients can be indistinguishable from those who have suffered physically traumatic brain injuries or been subjected to ice-pick lobotomies which were popular before psych drugs came on the market in the 1950s – and before the huge epidemic of mental illness that America is experiencing
America’s health epidemic in mental illness is grossly misunderstood. And the epidemic is worsening, not because of a supposed disease progression, but because of the chronic use of neurotoxic, non-curative drugs that are, in America, erroneously regarded as first-line “therapy.” 
So... other than his two authors and their five books, there are NO references to any authority, no references to studies, or to peer-reviewed articles, or even to any data.   The whole thing is pure bunk, based on faulty reasoning and intended to scare people.

Why scare the "innocents?"  What's in it for him/them?  Buying the books for one thing.  Suckering them into Scientology for another.  That, I believe is the source of this baloney.  The ending is the "tell."  L. Ron Hubbard's 1950s experience is the basis for their twisted view of psychiatry.  I will give them credit, though.  Their tactics are getting more devious. Having debated Scientologists before, when I saw the name "Breggin" in the references, I knew I was right. He used to be their hero before they came up with this new tactic.

The really sad thing is that they're the ones who are conspiring to hook "innocents" and convince them to do something against their own best interest.  If anyone has ever known a true schizophrenic or someone who has committed suicide, this kind of tripe is more than outrageous.  It's dangerous, which is why I decided to offer my debunking to the blogosphere.  I hope someone who is contemplating talking a loved one out of taking life-saving medication will listen to the real experts who have met their loved one and assessed his/her condition.



New Godspam

One of my coworkers received this pack of lies (debunked on Snopes):

God vs. Science

"Let me explain the problem science has with religion." The atheist professor of philosophy pauses before his class and then asks one of his new students to stand.

'You're a Christian, aren't you, son?'

'Yes sir,' the student says.

'So you believe in God?'

'Absolutely '

'Is God good?'

'Sure! God's good.'

'Is God all-powerful? Can God do anything?'


'Are you good or evil?'

'The Bible says I'm evil.'

The professor grins knowingly. 'Aha! The Bible! He considers for a moment. 'Here's one for you. Let's say there's a sick person over here and you can cure him. You can do it. Would you help him? Would you try?'

'Yes sir, I would.'

'So you're good!'

'I wouldn't say that.'

'But why not say that? You'd help a sick and maimed person if you could. Most of us would if we could. But God doesn't.'

The student does not answer, so the professor continues. 'He doesn't, does he? My brother was a Christian who died of cancer, even though he prayed to Jesus to heal him. How is this Jesus good? Can you answer that one?'

The student remains silent. 'No, you can't, can you?' the professor says. He takes a sip of water from a glass on his desk to give the student time to relax. 'Let's start again, young fella. Is God good?'

'Er...yes,' the student says.

'Is Satan good?'

The student doesn't hesitate on this one... 'No.'

'Yes, but - where does Satan come from?'

The student falters. 'From God'

'That's right. God made Satan, didn't he? Tell me, son. Is there evil in this world?'

'Yes, sir.'

'Evil's everywhere, isn't it? And God did make everything, correct?'


'So who created evil?' The professor continued, 'If God created everything, then God created evil, since evil exists, and according to the principle that our works define who we are, then God is evil.'

Again, the student has no answer. 'Is there sickness? Immorality? Hatred? Ugliness? All these terrible things, do they exist in this world?'

The student squirms on his feet. 'Yes.'

'So who created them ?'

The student does not answer again, so the professor repeats his question. 'Who created them?' There is still no answer. Suddenly the lecturer breaks away to pace in front of the classroom. The class is mesmerized. 'Tell me,' he continues onto another student. 'Do you believe in Jesus Christ, son?'

The student's voice betrays him and cracks. 'Yes, professor, I do.'

The old man stops pacing. 'Science says you have five senses you use to identify and observe the world around you. Have you ever seen Jesus?'

'No sir. I've never seen Him.'

'Then tell us if you've ever heard your Jesus?'

'No, sir, I have not.'

'Have you ever felt your Jesus, tasted your Jesus or smelt your Jesus? Have you ever had any sensory perception of Jesus Christ, or God for that matter?'

'No, sir, I'm afraid I haven't.'

'Yet you still believe in him?'


'According to the rules of empirical, testable, demon-strable protocol, science says your God doesn't exist... What do you say to that, son?'

'Nothing,' the student replies.. 'I only have my faith.'

'Yes, faith,' the professor repeats. 'And that is the problem science has with God. There is no evidence, only faith.'

The student stands quietly for a moment, before asking a question of His own. 'Professor, is there such thing as heat? '

' Yes'.

'And is there such a thing as cold?'

'Yes, son, there's cold too.'

'No sir, no, there isn't.'

The professor turns to face the student, obviously interested. The room suddenly becomes very quiet. The student begins to explain. 'You can have lots of heat, even more heat, super-heat, mega-heat, unlimited heat, white heat, a little heat or no heat, but we don't have anything called 'cold'. We can get down to 458 degrees below zero, which is no heat, but we can't go any further after that. There is no such thing as cold; otherwise we would be able to go colder than the lowest -458 degrees. Every body or object is susceptible to study when it has or transmits energy, and heat is what makes a body or matter have or transmit energy. Absolute zero (-458 F) is the total absence of heat. You see, sir, cold is only a word we use to describe the absence of heat. We cannot measure cold. Heat we can measure in thermal units because heat is energy. Cold is not the opposite of heat, sir, just the absence of it.'

Silence across the room. A pen drops somewhere in the classroom, sounding like a hammer.

'What about darkness, professor. Is there such a thing as darkness?'

'Yes,' the professor replies without hesitation. 'What is night if it isn't darkness?'

'You're wrong again, sir. Darkness is not something; it is the absence of something. You can have low light, normal light, bright light, flashing light, but if you have no light constantly you have nothing and it's called darkness, isn't it? That's the meaning we use to define the word. In reality, darkness isn't. If it were, you would be able to make darkness darker, wouldn't you?'

The professor begins to smile at the student in front of him. This will be a good semester. 'So what point are you making, young man?'

'My point is, your philosophical premise is flawed to start with, and so your conclusion must also be flawed.'

The professor's face cannot hide his surprise this time. 'Flawed? Can you explain how?'

'You are working on the premise of duality,' the student explains.. 'You argue that there is life and then there's death; a good God and a bad God. You are viewing the concept of God as something finite, something we can measure. Sir, science can't even explain a thought. It uses electricity and magnetism, but has never seen, much less fully understood either one. To view death as the opposite of life is to be ignorant of the fact that death cannot exist as a substantive thing. Death is not the opposite of life, just the absence of it.' 'Now tell me, professor. Do you teach your students that they evolved from a monkey?'

'If you are referring to the natural evolutionary process, young man, yes, of course I do.'

'Have you ever observed evolution with your own eyes, sir?'

The professor begins to shake his head, still smiling, as he realizes where the argument is going. A very good semester, indeed.

'Since no one has ever observed the process of evolution at work and cannot even prove that this process is an on-going endeavor, are you not teaching your opinion, sir? Are you now not a scientist, but a preacher?'

The class is in uproar. The student remains silent until the commotion has subsided. 'To continue the point you were making earlier, let me give you an example of what I mean.' The student looks around the room. 'Is there anyone in the class who has ever seen the professor's brain?' The class breaks out into laughter. 'Is there anyone here who has ever heard the professor's brain, felt the professor's brain, touched or smelt the professor's brain? No one appears to have done so.. So, according to the established rules of empirical, stable, demonstrable protocol, science says that you have no brain, with all due respect, sir. So if science says you have no brain, how can we trust your lectures, sir?'

Now the room is silent. The professor just stares at the student, his face unreadable. Finally, after what seems an eternity, the old man answers. 'I guess you'll have to take them on faith.'

'Now, you accept that there is faith, and, in fact, faith exists with life,' the student continues. 'Now, sir, is there such a thing as evil?' Now uncertain, the professor responds, 'Of course, there is. We see it everyday. It is in the daily example of man's inhumanity to man. It is in the multitude of crime and violence everywhere in the world.. These manifestations are nothing else but evil.'

To this the student replied, 'Evil does not exist sir, or at least it does not exist unto itself. Evil is simply the absence of God. It is just like darkness and cold, a word that man has created to describe the absence of God. God did not create evil. Evil is the result of what happens when man does not have God's love present in his heart. It's like the cold that comes when there is no heat or the darkness that comes when there is no light.'

The professor sat down.

If you read this all the way through and had a smile on your face when you finished, mail to your friends and family with the title 'God vs. Science'.

PS: The student was Albert Einstein.

Albert Einstein wrote a book titled 'God vs. Science' in 1921...

I love the graphic it came with.  What was she saved from?  Certainly not ignorance, stupidity, or gullibility. 

Saturday, April 21, 2012

I saw the above graphic on Facebook yesterday and I grabbed it in case I might want to use it someday.  I thought I'd have time to photoshop the spelling but no, already today I have found something so stupid it deserves this graphic:

After raising the Kalam cosmological argument and the argument from complexity as supposed proof of a scientific explanation of god, the author ends his claim that science makes god's existence probable with this zinger:

But if you wish to be more than just a rational theist whose belief is based on science and common sense, there is a way to know God more intimately. It is by personal revelation. If we sincerely turn to God, he will reveal himself in our hearts. He told us so himself: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”

So science says "god" is a product of quieting one part of the brain.  Justifying your faith by referring to "science" apparently requires the quieting of several more parts of the brain.

Oh, and what a "win" for Christians that Dawkins is willing to use the word "agnostic."  Apparently they are too lazy to read his book, or the dictionary definitions of "atheist" and "agnostic."

Friday, April 20, 2012

What Really Happened to Paul on the Road to Damascus

Recent research may have given us an answer to the question of what really happened to Paul:

“We have found a neuropsychological basis for spirituality, but it’s not isolated to one specific area of the brain,” said Brick Johnstone, professor of health psychology in the School of Health Professions. “Spirituality is a much more dynamic concept that uses many parts of the brain. Certain parts of the brain play more predominant roles, but they all work together to facilitate individuals’ spiritual experiences.”

In the most recent study, Johnstone studied 20 people with traumatic brain injuries affecting the right parietal lobe, the area of the brain situated a few inches above the right ear. He surveyed participants on characteristics of spirituality, such as how close they felt to a higher power and if they felt their lives were part of a divine plan. He found that the participants with more significant injury to their right parietal lobe showed an increased feeling of closeness to a higher power.

Since Paul didn't have these experiences at random moments throughout his life, it's possible he had something like an ischemic stroke, or a febrile seizure located just there.  Or perhaps it was just the D.T.s.

The Huffpo article indicates that "spiritual" experiences need not be spiritual.  They can be aesthetic.  I have had aesthetic experiences that were downright spooky, but I understood what they were.  They happened at concerts and it's only happened a few times.  The first was a cello performance when I was in high school.  The second was a jazz performance when I was in college.  The third was the Tokyo String Quartet.  The author of the study has these experiences while listening to Led Zeppelin. 

Is it any wonder that most cultures use music and sometimes dance to induce "spiritual" experiences?  The Huffpo piece mentions "meditation" which is actually less common around the world than music and dance as a tool.  Could the black church in America and other African-influenced religious practices survive without music?  Is it any accident that Rick Warren has a "praise band" and evangelicals use Christian rock to keep the young'uns in line?

Now I have only one more question:  would Jesus play a Fender or a Gibson?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

What I've Learned from Watching Eagle Families

I have often taken offense to claims that Americans, or Christians, or Midwesterners, or our team are "the greatest" when we come to the aid of neighbors or are altruistic in any way.  If you watch (rare in the U.S.) television coverage of floods or earthquakes in other parts of the world, people act pretty much the same as they do in saintly U.S. of A.

Then there's the Christian claim that we would all be horrible people if not for their purported influence on our behavior.  They have been so brainwashed to believe that they're sociopathic rapists, killers, and thieves that without their Ten Commandments they'd be running rampant.  They blame the lack of prayer in the schools for whatever evils they see around them even if the actual amount has declined.  (such as the teen birth rate, except in fundy states, where it has increased).

So when I indulge my current addiction of watching eagle nestcam, I can't help but notice how many of their "instinctive" behaviors are as altruistic as some of ours.  Then I've been reading up on the species and found out some other facts.  I've especially learned about what good parents they are.

First, eagles mate for life. They are probably more loyal to each other than human couples are, and they don't have any Commandment about adultery to worry about.  They build a nest and raise clutch after clutch there, making the nest bigger each year.   If a nest blows down in a storm the next year they will rebuild, sometimes choosing a different tree.  This week a nest burned in a forest fire.  There was no hope for the babies, but the parents will probably return and start over next year.

They feed each eaglet equally.  They may feed one first, or a bit more during one feeding or another, but they don't play favorites.  None of this "Jacob have I loved but Esau have I hated" shit.  Score one for eagles over humans.  (My brother was my mother's favorite, and don't let him tell you otherwise!)

They will take in eaglets that have been placed in their nests.  If a strange child showed up in a human home, it would be taken in.  Tie there.
The Decorah pair of certain roles but they share duties.  Dad does a lot of hunting and fishing.  Mom keeps the babies warm at night.  Dad watches over the nest from above while Mom sleeps.  Both of them will fight off raccoons or other animals that get too close.  One year the mom died and conservationists worried whether the babies would survive.  Dad took over the duties and the eaglets grew up just fine. 

The pair do some behaviors I would not have expected in birds.  Dad will bring home a fresh fish and start chomping away at it and then feed Mom the way he would feed an eaglet.   It looks real sweet, or perhaps he's learned to always give her the eyes of the fish or she'll peck him.  Yes, they bicker.  But they get over it.  They're adults.

They arrange their nest, usually just making sure the kids are warm unde mom.  But sometimes seem to bring in a twig or corn husk with no particular reason, then put it right in front of a baby.  "Here baby, play with this."  Of course, the baby will need to learn to manipulate twigs to make his/her nest one day.  The parents seem to "know" this.

When rain is on the way, dad will bring in extra fish.  When the rain arrives, mom makes sure all their little heads are under her (they're all too big to fit in the nest bowl they hung out in as newborns).  Does Dad know they need extra energy to fight the cold?  Does mom know that heat is lost through the head?  Do they know that the babies have down, which is not waterproof, before they have feathers?  Seems like it. 

Eagles are very large birds.  Are they "thinking" with larger brains than say, a chicken?  Well, I rather doubt that brain size is why they do all the "right" things.  Several years ago my zebra finches had a clutch of babies and they were also excellent parents.  In their case, Dad made sure that each baby got a little of each of the goodies I put in their cage:  bird food, hard boiled egg bits, chopped kale, and water.  He would do the rounds of all these goodies and then go into the nest and feed the babies.  Why did he do this?

Because being good to others (or at least our babies) is instinctive for many species.

...and then the babies are old enough to fly and eat on their own, and they have to leave and start the whole cycle over.  The parents don't send them to Hell forever for saying "I hate you."  They don't require the babies to follow artificial rules that don't make sense.  They're good  parents.

God "the Father" is a bad parent.  He lets his "children" starve.  He lets his children get cold.  He plays favorites.  He rejects the "children" of other gods.  He lets predators get hold of his kids.

Comparing the parenting qualities of eagles to the parenting of "God the Father," it's easy to see why tribes might worship an eagle god or goddess.  Wouldn't an eagle feather on your headdress be a better symbol of trust in a good parent than a cross pendant, the symbol of a parent who abandoned his favorite child and made him a sacrifice in exchange for the lives of his brats?  'Look how my good father chose to let his best kid suffer?  Whattaguy!

Who would you rather have as a parent?  God?  or an eagle?


Monday, April 16, 2012

Vote against "Faith!"

A nesting pair of eagles at the Davenport, Iowa Alcoa plant has hatched three healthy eaglets.  The pair are predictably named "Liberty" and "Justice."  They held a poll to name last year's singleton, and the winning name was "Freedom."  So far so good.

This year there are three eaglets, and Alcoa has narrowed the online poll to a selection of names, and one of the names is "Faith."


So tell your friends, even if they're not American, that the symbol of American strength should *not* be named "Faith!" and get them to vote here or here.  Keep in mind the sex of the eaglets has yet to be determined, so the choices such as "Orville, Wilbur, and Amelia" could result in a girl named Wilbur.  But it would still be better than spoiling the tradition of naming the eagles for valued American principles by naming one of them "Faith."

We chose the bald eagle as an American symbol for its ability to swoop down on a squirrel or duck or carp and rip it to shreds.  They do not pray they prey.

So vote for Orville, Wilbur & Amelia - famous flyers all, even if one wind up as a girl with a boy's name.  She'd rip you to shreds if you made fun of her.

"The Woman Who Wasn't There"

I watch the "Investigation Discovery" channel quite a bit and they've been advertising a documentary called "The Woman Who Wasn't There." (link to Variety review)  It's the story of Tania Head, who claimed to survive the Twin Towers' collapse on 9/11.  She kept up the lie for several years and became a leader amongst 9/11 survivors until she was busted by the New York Times.  Online we call these people trolls.  In the psychology literature they're victims of Munchausen Syndrome by proxy, or "factitious" disorder, i.e. big fat liars.The commercial is awesome.  A deep, booming voice says: "She made it. all. up."

I recently also saw a rerun of 20/20 about a hoax in which a woman pretends to be her abused adopted son.  The "son" wrote a book that was very inspirational, and the debunking inspired an HBO movie and an episode of Law & Order.  Apparently there have been other instances like this.

Snopes has linked this case to that of "Kaycee Nicole."  (they need to update this article!)  There have probably been many more of these.  The motive seems to be attention for whoever made it up.  Sometimes there may be money involved.  In the internet cases no actual children have been harmed.  In the 9/11 fake survivor story, the situation is a bit different in that the whole thing is about Tania Head, and her fiancĂ© who perished in one of the towers (a real victim, but who had never actually met her).

Why am I blogging about this?

Well, in the canon of Reasons Why the Bible is Bullshit, we fail to acknowledge the potential for one or more of the founders of Christianity to have been a big fat liar along the lines of these people.  The other reason is that Christians frequently point to the benefits of religion, which presumably would override the falsity of their basis.  Supposedly this 9/11 faker helped other people, so we're supposed to have mixed feelings about her.  Sure, she's a liar, but look at all the good she did!  I can almost hear Christians saying "Okay so you think Jesus wasn't a magical half-god miracle worker, but look at all the good that came from the fairy tale!

Imagine if this woman had managed to convince people that she died at the Twin Towers and was resurrected by a supreme being that was visible in the smoke... or pieces of toast, or whatever.  Imagine if Paul had this disorder.  Or Moses.  Or Mary.  What if Mary had made up these stories?  Nobody would question the motives of a grieving mother, would they?  What if instead of being a schizophrenic suffering from hallucinations and delusions of grandeur, Joseph Smith had simply been a big. fat. liar?  Or L. Ron Hubbard?  (heh, well...)

Somehow we imagine the people of ancient times to be wiser than us, more honest than us, yet more violent than us, and also stupider than us.  We don't consider that they might be pretty much just like us.  Some were liars.  Some were gullible dupes.  Some were vicious.  Some were kind.  Some were skeptical.  (probably)  And some could have invented entire religions out of whole cloth.  If the Christian can resort to "well, it's possible therefore believable" (or even probable), then we should counter with "It's also possible that the people who wrote the Bible made the whole thing up for their own purposes."

Wait.... there were historical events and actual kings mentioned in the Bible!  Yes, and there really was a 9/11 and there really were a few people who survived the collapse of the Twin Towers.  But everything Tanya Head said about her involvement there was totally made up.  Putting a big lie into a truthful framework is a classic technique.  In Gone With The Wind,  we call it "historical fiction."  In Acts of the Apostles we are expected to call it "history."

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Scientific American Mind: Can Atheists be Happy?

I can't believe even a magazine with the word "Scientific" in the title would honor that old lie about religion making people happier by referencing it in an article:

Well, duh.  Can't anyone be happy?  And can't anyone have depression?  We have the recent example of Andrea Yates to prove that being a devout Christian is no guarantee of happiness.

Being religious also seems to be most beneficial if you live among mostly religious people, indicating it is way of fitting in socially. In countries where few people believe, the psychological benefits of faith disappear.

So... living in a society where everyone agrees with you and supports you is beneficial, not religiosity per se.  Her advice?

So if you are nonbeliever, surround yourself with like-minded people, and work on achieving your goals in other parts of your life...Your social and professional successes will then help you weather life’s ups and downs just as religion does.

So... this means we should read atheist blogs, go to atheist meetups, choose professions where whether something's true or not matters, and come out to people you think might share your non-belief.

...and put up billboards to let the ones in the closet know they're not alone!

I think we're on the right track.  That makes me happy.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Easter Story: Where the "Trinity" Becomes an Absurdity

Someone at work awhile ago told me that her Sunday School, or maybe her fundy college, taught that the Trinity is like the three forms of Water.  Each has its own "identity" but they're all H20.  So I asked why Jesus referred to God in the third person.  Her answer:  "good question."
She didn't have a good answer.

Tonight I had the opportunity to go to a Good Friday concert at a Methodist church.  They requested no applause, and there was a prayer/mini-sermon at the beginning, but otherwise it was just a concert with a peculiar theme.

During the brief speechifying, I sensed some awkwardness, as if they were embarrassed to tell such a ridiculous story.  Or maybe I was projecting.  *shrug*  Anyway, during the more boring parts of the concert instead of thinking about Christ's suffering and his love for "each of us," (except many groups he slams in the gospels), I found myself thinking of how the concept of the Trinity makes no sense in light of the Easter story.

The basic story is that we are stained by original sin, or sins we've committed, or by being sinful beings by design, and only animal sacrifices could save us from God's wrath until Christ allowed himself to be betrayed, marched through the streets of Jerusalem in shame, and then killed by crucifiction.  .... then he gets put into a tomb (typical of the time) and then disappears from it, and then appears to people, Elvis-style, for a time... and then goes to live with God.

...except that he is God.  And in the story, he cries out to God, "Why hast thou forsaken me?"  Now, if he was so powerful that he could have liberated himself if he'd wanted to, why would he say that?  And why refer to God in the second and third persons?  And if he could decide to forgive us via his "sacrifice" of being dead for part of a weekend, why not just decide to forgive us just cuz?  They're his rules.  He can change them... unless he's not all-powerful.

So... the Trinity is problem for several reasons:
  • Jesus refers to himself as "Son of Man"
  • Jesus refers to God in the second and third person
  • Jesus didn't have the power to jump off the cross
  • Jesus was expecting God to intervene for him
  • Jesus as half-God and half-human was more in keeping with stories of his time
  • Jesus didn't willingly sacrifice himself - he could have turned himself in rather than be betrayed
  • In the cannibalistic meal he references himself as a sacrifice, but sacrifice to whom?  Can a god be sacrificed to appease himself?  That's just plain messed up.
  • Jesus says the "father" acts through him, not that he is  his own father
  • Jesus "sits at the right hand" of God.  How can God sit next to himself?
Well, at least that many reasons.  Even if you accept everything else as historically true in the Bible, the Trinity seems like a big stretch.

Why does it matter?  Well, the reason this came up with my coworker is that when I asked why Baptists don't consider Mormons to be Christians despite the words "Jesus Christ" being right in the title of their denomination, she brought up the Trinity.  She said they can't be "Christian" because they don't believe Jesus is God.  Apparently, even though they say that believing in salvation through Christ's sacrifice is key to being a Christian, there's a whole list of things they will hold other Christians to. 

 The Nicene Creed, which was codified in 325, is still kind of central, but you'd think that you could drop one or two without being ex-communicated by fundies.  But... take a look at this other version, known as the Apostles' Creed, which goes easy on the Trinity crap.  Yet fundy theology doesn't say that the people who say those words aren't Christians.

What a fucked up theology and fucked up bunch of followers.  If there really were an all-powerful deity behind this, couldn't he have fixed it?

Thursday, April 5, 2012

That Idiotic Duggar Family

Duggar baby #20 died in utero.  They dug the thing out and gave her a funeral, complete with photos of mom holding the fetus' hand.  My Christian Facebook friends were bawling their eyes out.  Yes, the stupid TV show exploiting these crazy people showed that shite.

Oh puh-leeze.  That woman should have had her tubes tied years ago.  Instead, she's allowing her body to be used by Jebus to show America that Christians should increase their numbers by, well, increasing their numbers.

How can someone who is 45 years old and has had 19 children really expect #20 to be healthy?  #19 had problems.  Focus on that one.   In fact, focus on all the ones that are still little enough to need their real parents, not teenage siblings acting as surrogate parents so the parents can focus on babies.  The whole arrangment is sick, sick, sick.

Not to be outdone, TLC is starting a "reality" show about their goofy "friends"called the Bates family.  I wonder if they own a motel.  With 18 kids they'll need that many rooms.

This "be fruitful and multiply" movement is really creepy.  And curiously, not every mom is happy to be used as a breeding mare.

This brings up a little-known cult called "Quiverfull" that believes in population explosion of Christians by using woman as breeders.  One of their successful moms was Andrea Yates, who was so determined to keep her kids sin-free that she drowned all five of them to keep them from going to Hell.  Andrea Yates has sought permission to escape from state custody every Sunday to return to the slavery of her church for an hour.  That's like letting the Manson girls visit Charlie in the hoosegow for an hour a week.  Really?  WTF?  Her attorney describes this as a "baby step" towards rejoining the community.  uhhhh which community?  Why should anyone who has killed FIVE children be taking baby steps anywhere but within the walls of the nut house?

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Another One Bites the Dust

Dateline:  Tallahassee:  Minister Steps Down, Says She's An Atheist

A local minister stepped down from her post just before announcing she is an atheist.

A member of Lake Jackson United Methodist in Tallahassee says Teresa MacBain left the church Friday, March 30.

A day later, a video was posted online from a recent American Atheist Conference.

In it, MacBain came out as an atheist to the crowd.

Church members are meeting tonight to discuss leadership plans in her absence.

MacBain was with the church since 2009.

Very courageous of her to "come out" in public that way.  I hope we'll be hearing more from her in the atheist blogosphere!